by Bruce Baskin
January 3, 2022 - Mexican League (ML)
CULIACAN SWEEPS MAYOS; MEX PAC SEMI MATCHUPS SET
Usually when a top-seeded team draws the lowest seed in the playoffs, the former is confident that they have a good chance of advancing to the next round. However, as the Navojoa Mayos learned last week, drawing the two-time defending champion Culiacan Tomateros was anything but a ticket to the Mexican Pacific League semifinals.
Coming off a regular season in which they finished with the most points among the ten LMP clubs, the Mayos were swept in four straight games by the Tomateros. After Culiacan won the first game of the quarterfinal set, 8-5, on Christmas day, manager Benji Gil's troops took a Game Two win at Navojoa last Sunday, 6-4, in a contest that lasted 12 innings. Jose Guadalupe Chavez opened the top of the 12th with a single, moved to second on a Randy Romero sacrifice and then scored the eventual game-winner on Ramiro Pena's single. Culiacan reliever Carlos Baldonado, who singled in Pena with the Tomateros' sixth run during a rare plate appearance, then held the Mayos scoreless in the bottom of the frame for the win.
The series then shifted to Culiacan, where the Tomateros won twice to close out the series. Last Tuesday's game resulted in Gil's 50th postseason victory as manager as Culiacan pulled out a 5-3 triumph, thanks in part to a four-run seventh during which a Joey Meneses single plated the go-ahead run. The brooms were brought out last Wednesday as the Tomateros completed the sweep with a 9-6 win. Former Orioles utilityman Stevie Wilkerson swatted two homers, one of them a walkoff three-run bomb in the bottom of the ninth to break a 6-6 tie and end both game and series.
The Tomateros will be joined by Guasave and Jalisco in the semifinals. The Algdoneros followed a 3-1 series opener loss at home to Obregon on Christmas by defeating the Yaquis in four straight to move to the next round. Yadir Drake's three-run double in the bottom of the sixth was the difference-maker in the Cottoneer's 5-2 win over the visitors last Sunday to knot the series at a game apiece. The two combatants shifted to Obregon, where Guasave shocked the Yaquis with three straight road wins.
Last Tuesday's Game Three saw seven Guasave pitchers combine for a 6-0 shutout over Obregon as Jesse Castillo contributed a two-run double while Esteban Quiroz capped the scoring with a solo homer in the ninth. One night later, the Algodoneros took a 3-1 victory behind starting pitcher Luis Miranda's six shutout innings as Drake poked a two-run single during a three-run fourth for the winners. Guasave closed out the Yaquis in Game Five last Thursday, 5-4, in ten innings. Alan Lopez opened the tenth with a single, advanced to second on a Miguel Guzman sacrifice and scored on Marco Jaime's single off Yaquis reliever Carlos Machorro.
Jalisco nailed down one of the other two semifinal berths with a 4-games-to-2 win over Mexicali. After outlasting the Aguilas, 10-9, in a 12-inning Game One win on Christmas, the Charros took a 6-3 win over the visitors last Sunday in Guadalajara after Felix Perez' two-run single keyed a four-run rally in the seventh to erase a 2-0 deficit. The series then shifted to Mexicali with the Charros up 2-games-to-0.
Last Tuesday's Game Three ended with a 7-3 Mexicali win at El Nido as Yeison Acensio singled in Daniel Castro in the bottom of the first to give the Aguilas a lead they'd never relinquish. The Eagles tied the series one night later with a 4-3 triumph in eleven innings as Reynaldo Rodriguez' RBI single ended Game Four in walkoff fashion. Jalisco won, 6-2, last Thursday as Charros starter Javier Solano allowed two runs in seven innings against his former teammates and Missael Rivera stroked a two-run double. The set returned to Estadio Charros for Game Six and Jalisco emerged victorious, 5-0, to end the series. Starter Brennan Bernardino blanked Mexicali over seven entradas while Juan Jose Aguilar tripled, homered and scored twice.
Jalisco moves on to face Monterrey, who was extended seven games in their quarterfinal series before shutting out Hermosillo, 5-0, Sunday night at Estadio Sonora. Michael Devine got the win with seven scoreless innings and Fernando Perez crushed a two-run homer in the fifth for the Sultanes. Monterrey won the series opener, 5-4, on Christmas in Hermosillo but the Naranjeros bounced back for a 10-4 win last Sunday behind a 17-hit attack that included a two-run homer by number nine batter Cesar Salazar in the fifth. The series then shifted to Estadio Monterrey, where the Naranjeros took the series lead with a 3-2 Game Three win last Tuesday as Rusney Castillo's sacrifice fly brought Nick Torres in from third with the eventual game-winner in the top of the eighth.
The Sultanes then won the next two games in Monterrey to regain the series lead. A 6-3 Game Four win last Wednesday featured a four-run outburst in the seventh during which Aldo Flores doubled in Ricardo Serrano with the tying run before scoring the go-ahead run on Roberto Valenzuela's single. In Thursday's Game Five, Monterrey won a 6-5 thriller when Carlos Figueroa scored from third on a Perez walkoff single in the bottom of the 12th. Hermosillo roared back Saturday with a 9-2 home win as vet Luis Alfonso Cruz crashed a two-run homer and added an RBI single to aid Orangemen starter Ryan Verdugo (2 runs, 7 innings) and send the series to Sunday's seventh and deciding game.
The Mex Pac semifinals will begin Tuesday night when Culiacan visits Guasave for Game One of their series while Jalisco will host Monterrey in Guadalajara in their Final Four opener.
MEXICAN LEAGUE RELEASES 2022 SCHEDULE
The Mexican League has released its 2022 season schedule. The LMB office announced that their next campaign will open on Thursday, April 21 in Tijuana when the defending champion Toros host the Mexico City Diablos Rojos. All 18 Liga teams will be in action one night later. Here's a link to the entire Mexican League schedule for 2022: https://img.mlbstatic.com/milb-images/image/upload/milb/c1q8gubhaqm7q07pu1ns.pdf
As speculated, each LMB team will play 90 regular season games this year, the shortest full-season schedule the league has had since 1954, when the loop's six clubs played 80 games each before joining the National Association one year later. The Mexican League is no longer considered part of the Minor League Baseball system. In all, a total of 810 regular season contests are scheduled between April 21 and August 7, with Mondays continuing a longtime tradition as travel days (although a press release from the league office states that Monday games will be played in 2022).
The four-tiered LMB postseason will open Tuesday, August 9 with the top six finishers from each division qualifying for a berth. Once again, the three first-round series winners per division will be joined in their Division Semifinals by a "lucky loser" team that won the most games in their opening-round defeat, a format used in the Mexican Pacific League for years prior to the LMP's playoff expansion from six to eight teams in 2019-20. The Serie del Rey (or King Series) between respective division champions will be held between September 9 and 17 to cap the five-week postseason. All playoff series will follow a best-of-7 format.
The Mexican League All-Star Weekend, which was canceled in 2021, will return on June 17-19 in Monclova.
MAESTROS OF MEXICO: Ronnie Camacho, 1B
Ronaldo Camacho Duran was born October 26, 1935 in Empalme, Sonora. Although he was only 5'9" and 170 pounds at the height of his career, Camacho was nicknamed "The Rock" for both his reliable batting and glove work. He was one of the top power hitters in the Mexican League during the 1960's, winning titles twice each in homers, runs scored and RBIs between 1962 and 1969.
Camacho began his career as a 17-year-old second baseman in 1953, signing with the St. Louis Cardinals and landing in Fresno. He spent parts of four seasons in the Cards' system, batting .276 with 16 homers and 77 RBIs for Fresno of the Class C California League in 1954 and a year later was a member of a Fresno team which finished 104-43 and was #79 among the All-Time Top 100 teams in minor league history, according to a 2001 ranking commissioned by Minor League Baseball.
Camacho returned to Mexico for good in 1956 with Nuevo Laredo. After four seasons on the border, Camacho and the Tecolotes moved to Puebla in 1960, where he would shift to first base and spend most of the next ten years. In 1963, the Pericos won their first Mexican League pennant as Camacho led the loop with 39 homers and 108 RBIs after he led the LMB with 25 roundtrippers in 1962. After leading the Liga with 116 RBIs in 1969, "The Rock" moved to Yucatan for 1970 to begin a tour that saw him bounce around the circuit before retiring after spending the 1975 season with Aguascalientes.
In 20 LMB seasons, Camacho hit .272 with 317 homers and 1,273 RBIs. He batted .300 four times, topped 20 roundtrippers nine times and cleared 100 RBIs four times, with career highs of 39 bombs and 116 ribbies. He stands sixth on the Liga's all-time home run list and 8th in RBIs even though he retired 20 years ago. Camacho managed six LMB teams between 1971 and 1979.
The right-handed hitting Camacho also played 13 seasons of winter ball in what is now known as Mexican Pacific League, hitting .256 with 139 homers playing for Guaymas and his hometown of Empalme. He was the first Triple Crown winner of the league in 1958-59 and he set a still-standing record of 27 homers over 81 games in 1963-64. As a manager, he won LMP titles with Guaymas in 1966-67 and Mazatlan in 1973-74.
Ronnie "The Rock" Camacho was elected as a member of the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. He turned 86 on October 26 last year.
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